Quebec government

Municipal leaders band together to fight Quebec Electoral Representation Commission's senseless decision

As a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc, I always appreciate opportunities to work together with other elected officials in neighbouring municipalities. Such was the case on March 21 when the borough of Côte des Neiges-NDG spearheaded an energizing public meeting at their Community Centre to protest the senseless decision arrived by the Quebec Electoral Representation Commission. This unelected body, which answers to absolutely nobody, inexplicably reversed its February 7, 2017 second report on the electoral map that proposed to maintain the Mont Royal, Outremont and D'Arcy McGee ridings without any change. When the next provincial election takes place in October 2018, Mont Royal and Outremont will be merged and D’Arcy McGee unnecessarily larger in size.

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Dida Berku and Ruth Kovac join other political leaders at the event.



Snowdon Councillor Marvin Rotrand and Suburban Newspaper editor Beryl Wajsman led the charge, first with a press conference and then with this impressive public meeting. Rotrand was joined at the head table by Borough Mayor Russell Copeman, Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg, TMR Councillor Erin Kennedy (representing Mayor Philippe Roy), CSL Councillor Ruth Kovac (representing Mayor Mitchell Brownstein) and Outremont Councillor Mindy Pollak (representing Mayor Marie Cinq Mars) English Montreal School Board Chairman Angela Mancini spoke, with Vice Chair Sylvia Lo Bianco, Commissioner Julien Feldman and Parent Commissioner Joanne Charron in attendance. Allan J. Levine, Dida Berku and I were the other CSL councillors on hand. I saw several of my constituents. If the Electoral Map had been adopted by Members of the National Assembly, I am certain that the passion and clear facts set out at this meeting would have resulted in an about face. Regrettably, there is nothing elected officials seem to be able to do. In fact, Mont Royal and Outremont are represented by cabinet ministers Pierre Arcand and Helene David. One of them will have to find a new place to run or retire.


I spoke to lawyer Peter Villani after the meeting and we both agreed that the Electoral Representation Commission still has an opportunity to correct this terrible wrong, admit it made a mistake and allow the status quo to prevail.

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It was standing room only at the event.


The room was packed, something which elated fireball Rotrand. “The large attendance we witnessed speaks to the public interest in opposing the loss of representation that our communities will suffer if the map decreed by the Electoral Representation Commission stands,” he said. “The meeting essentially came together in a very short time so I believe the turnout reflects a broad consensus in our part of the island.”


Now unless the Commission shows some class, this decision will have to be fought in court and initiated by citizens. Ideally, an injunction can be sought. Wajsman has taken the lead by collecting funds for an eventual contestation and former NDG-Lachine Liberal Member of Parliament Marlene Jennings stepped forward to set up a blue ribbon panel. Jennings was chosen by the Quebec English School Boards Association to do the same when the provincial government tried to push through Bill 86 – aimed at abolishing elected school commissioners. The government backed off and they did so because they answer to the public; the Electoral Representation Commission simply marches to the beat of its own drum.


Each of the boroughs and municipal councils in the area has or will soon adopt a motion in opposition to the electoral map. All feel that the Commission's map will mean a serious loss of representation for their citizens, lacks respect for natural communities and does not provide the effective representation that the electoral law indicates must be the basis of any final decision.


The mayors have shared a legal decision written last September by Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens, Dean of the University of Montreal Law School, which indicated that the Commission's proposal of 2015 to merge Mont Royal and Outremont and change D'Arcy McGee was highly questionable. As the Commission's final decision has reverted to the 2015 plan, the mayors feel the Commission’s proposal will not stand up to a legal challenge.


“We are strongly concerned about the diminished political weight of the island of Montreal,” said Copeman, a former Liberal MNA for NDG. “Our political weight has been reduced in every riding redistribution since 1992 which merged Westmount and Saint-Louis. We have lost four ridings over the decades.
"The merger of Mont-Royal and Outremont creates a very large riding which is expected to see robust demographic growth over the next five years which we anticipate will take it over the legal maximum number of voters allowed by the electoral law."


The Commission proposes to maintain 125 electoral ridings in the National Assembly with the average number of voters being 48,952 per riding. The electoral law allows ridings to be as much as 25 percent more or less than the average, a maximum of 61,190 or a minimum of 36,714 voters. This legal disparity of up to 24,476 voters or up to a 69 percent legal difference of voters per riding gives some voters in Quebec far more power than others.


While the mayors believe such a disparity in number of voters per riding should only be allowed in the rarest cases, there are many examples in the map of small ridings in the 37,000 to 40,000 range while many others approach the upper limits. Ridings like Duplessis, Dubuc, Rousseau, Megantic and Nicolet-Betancour all have far fewer voters than Montreal ridings such as Nelligan, Saint Laurent, Robert Baldwin or the new D’Arcy McGee or merged Mont Royal - Outremont which have between 55,000 and 59,000 voters each.


"Worse of all is that the Commission proposes six ridings that are exceptions to the law beyond the Iles de la Madeleine, the only exception the law actually permits,” says Mayor Brownstein. “These ridings including Abitibi-Est, Abitibi Ouest, Bonaventure, Gaspe, René Levesque and Ungava have between 26.8 and 44 percent fewer voters than the electoral map average and are below the legal minimum of voters. How do we explain to voters that D'Arcy McGee will now have boundaries that will no longer resemble its historic territory and have 56,245 voters while Gaspe, a riding that will have fewer voters in 2018 than at the 2014 elections, will have a Member of the National Assembly with only 30,048 electors?"


The mayors note that the new map cuts the large Filipino community that had real clout in Mont Royal in half with a large part of the community residing west of Côte des Neiges Road shifted to D'Arcy McGee. The large Orthodox Jewish community in the former Outremont riding is also diluted with those living east of Hutchinson moved into Mercier.
Councillor Kovac presented a strong statement from Mayor Brownstein at the public meeting. Natural communities should be kept together in order to give minority groups a stronger voice,” she said. And yet helping natural communities is not what has happened in the commission’s report. We have the worst of both worlds – they are removing representation from the island of Montreal, making ridings bigger, and breaking apart natural communities. Maybe we don’t need the exact same strict equality rules as they have in the United States. But can we at least apply the same fairness as they have Macedonia, or Yemen, or Belarus?


“When you increase the size of a riding like D’Arcy McGee, you weaken the voice of its natural communities. Allophones, Anglophones, Italian, Filipino, Jewish communities and others will no longer have as strong representation as they did when the riding of D’Arcy McGee was of a reasonable size. Further Mount Royal brought one more vote to the National Assembly for these communities and other minority communities. As the largest city in Quebec continues to grow its voice should not be weakened. It’s up to Quebecers to raises our voices, open their wallets, and help challenge in court decisions that hurt our community. I sincerely hope the Commission reverses its decision without the need for a legal challenge.

 


Birnbaum hands out his second annual D'Arcy McGee Citizenship Medals

I was pleased to attend the second annual presentation of the D’Arcy-McGee Citizenship Medals on June 20 at the Côte-Saint-Luc Aquatic and Community Centre.

Three winners of this National Assembly medal were recognized for having touched and enriched the lives of riding residents through their community engagement. The selections were made by a blue-ribbon jury composed of three former D’Arcy-McGee MNAs: Justice Herbert Marx, Lawrence S. Bergman and Robert Libman.

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Lawrence Bergman addresses the audience.

Bergman provided opening remarks and showed how he remains the ultimate politician, almost a D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA Emeritus.

At the event, an inaugural winner of the Victor Goldbloom “Vivre ensemble” essay contest was announced. The prize, a tribute to the former MNA, Minister and Official Languages Commissioner who passed away earlier this year, will now be bestowed annually on a Secondary IV or V student studying in the riding.

“I’m privileged to serve a riding population that consistently distinguishes itself by its community involvement, compassion and leadership,” said present-day D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum. “We are all beneficiaries of this dedication.”

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Left to right: Solloway, Feldman, Ivry and Birnbaum. 

The winners were Dr. Mark A. Wainberg, Ian M. Solloway and Liselotte Ivry of Côte Saint-Luc. They were honored before friends, family and guests for lifetime achievement in serving their fellow residents and beyond.

For the first time, an additional medal was presented to the winner of the Victor Goldbloom ‘‘Vivre Ensemble’’ Essay contest, open all Secondary IV and V students studying within the riding. Sheila Goldbloom was present for the presentation of the prize, in memory of the former provincial Minister and first MNA for D’Arcy-McGee, Victor Goldbloom. The essay winner, Ben Feldman, was selected by a jury composed of the current MNA, D'Arcy-McGee Liberal Association President Orna Hilberger, retired Professor and Association member Dorothy Zalcman-Howard and Michael Goldbloom, Victor’s son and Principal of Bishop’s University. Ben attends Hebrew Academy on Kellert Avenue.

A music ensemble from École secondaire Saint-Luc in the riding entertained the gathering with a wonderful medley of jazz tunes.

Among those present were the Minister responsible for Access to Information and the Reform of Democratic Institutions Rita Di Santis, federal MP for the Mount-Royal riding Anthony Housefather, Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg and members of our council.

“There is such a rich tradition of volunteer and community leadership in this riding,” noted Birnbaum. “I am pleased and proud to have instituted a National Assembly medals program that allows us to recognize those in the D’Arcy-McGee riding who have given so much back in service of their fellow residents. Today’s three winners exemplify that spirit of community and public service.”

Wainberg, of course, is a world leader in advancing treatment for, and awareness of, AIDS and HIV. His research and collaboration have helped save millions of lives around the world. He was on business in Kenya and unable to attend. His colleague at the Jewish General Hospital, Councillor Glenn J. Nashen, accepted the award on his behalf.

Solloway is presently into the fifth decade of a remarkable career as a family law attorney. He has pleaded cases here and internationally. In addition, he wrote more than 650 judgments during three terms on the Commission d’appel sur la langue d’enseignement. In fact he was the first English-speaking member of that body. Ian also chaired the English-speaking section of the Montreal Bar for an unprecedented eight terms. Over the years he has also been integrally involved in the community.

“Ever since I was a child growing up, community has been important to me,” Solloway said in his acceptance speech. “My uncle was former Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Sam Moskovitch. I always believed that giving back to a community is not just a duty, but a privilege.”

Ivry is a Holocaust survivor who has shared her message of hope and remembrance with hundreds of Quebec children of all origins and backgrounds. Her mother and brother perished at Auschwitz. She was finally liberated from Bergen-Belsen in 1945 at the age of 19 and built a new life in Montreal. Professionally, she was an art teacher. In 2007 she published “I’m Their Voice,” a compilation of letters, poems and drawings from the students whose classes she visited over the years. “I believe we are all here on earth to accomplish a mission,” she said. “Mine is to speak on behalf of the six million Jews who cannot do so themselves.”

As for Feldman, 16, here is excerpt from his winning essay. “On July 6, 2013 a train carrying oil failed to brake properly and started rolling down the tracks towards a Quebec town. When this horrible explosion occurred, Federation CJA raised just over $100,000 for the people of Lac Mégantic along with Dr. Victor Goldbloom. The inhabitants of Lac-Mégantic did not understand why the Jewish community of Montreal was helping them and that is exactly where Vivre Ensemble comes into play. The few people who went there representing Montreal Jews explained that their morals and purpose was to help others, and as the people of Lac-Mégantic needed help, so that is why they came."


Encouraging news from Birnbaum on Cavendish extension

“An important step forward” is how David Birnbaum, MNA for D'Arcy-McGee, described a resolution adopted at last weekend’s Quebec Liberal Party’s General Council calling for the implementation of the long-awaited Cavendish extension. The final resolution, including an amendment brought forth by the D’Arcy-McGee Liberal Riding Association, was overwhelmingly adopted.

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David Birnbaum

The original resolution, proposed by the Nelligan Riding Association proposed that: “The government recommend the opening of Cavendish Boulevard between Saint-Laurent and Côte Saint-Luc to provide a north-south alternative to motorists from the West’’. Significantly, Nelligan is the riding of Municipal Affairs and Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux, who has a key role to play in orchestrating Quebec’s participation in the project.

The D’Arcy-McGee delegation to the weekend congress, led by President Orna Hilberger, strengthened the resolution by proposing the following amendment: “The government recommend and participate, with the other levels of government, in the financing and execution of the opening of Cavendish Boulevard between Saint-Laurent and Côte Saint-Luc to provide a north-south alternative to motorists from the West.’’

Cavendish is much more than a plan to reduce West-end traffic congestion, Birnbaum insisted. With the future developments of Namur-De-la-Savanne, including the Triangle, the Blue Bonnets site and potentially, the Quinze-40 shopping-centre project, Cavendish represents perhaps the central economic hub of activity for all of Montreal over the next 20 years. “I know that the residents of D’Arcy-McGee have been waiting a long time on this file. My colleagues in our government, and at every level of government, are working to make sure we see action, and soon.”

Birnbaum will host a summer fundraising cocktail on Monday, June 6 ( 6 pm to 8 pm) at Ecole Mosaique at 5621 McMurray Avenue in CSL.  Attendees are asked to make a $100 donation to the Quebec Liberal Party. For more information call Fran Gutman at 514-462-8671 or e-mail darcymcgeeqc@gmail.com. A prominent Minister from the government will speak.

 


Students in D'Arcy McGee riding encouraged to enter contest in memory of Victor Goldbloom

David Birnbaum, MNA for D'Arcy-McGee, has  announced the creation of the Victor Goldbloom Vivre Ensemble Essay Contest. Victor Goldbloom, the first MNA for D'Arcy-McGee, first Jewish Cabinet Minister in Quebec, first Minister of the Environment, passed away at the age of 92 earlier this year.  It was one of those deaths which, despite his age, had people saying "he really did leave us too soon." That is because he was so incredibly active on many dossiers  right up until his death. I was with him at a press conference in December against Bill 86, the proposed law aimed at abolishing school board elections. He was the main speaker.

Dr. Goldbloom  served as Canada's Commissioner of Official Languages. Dr. Goldbloom was a champion throughout his life of building bridges between English- and French-speaking communities and between those of diverse faiths.

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Dr. Victor Goldbloom

"It seems only fitting that we perpetuate Victor's tremendous legacy by inviting young people in the riding he represented to explore the principles of openness, compassion and understanding that so marked his life," noted Birnbaum, who presented the contest to area school principals at a meeting. 

All Secondary IV and V students studying within the riding are invited to submit essays of no more than 700 words on the general theme of "Vivre ensemble." They are entirely free to choose their specific subject to address that theme. Entries can be submitted in English or French, and must include a single-paragraph summary in the second language. They must be received by Friday, June 3, 2016 at 4 p.m. at fran.gutman@assnat.qc.ca.

Birnbaum noted that a single winning entry will be chosen by a jury composed of the MNA, D'Arcy-McGee Liberal Association President Orna Hilberger and  retired Professor and Association member Dorothy Zalcman-Howard. They will be joined by Michael Goldbloom, Victor’s son and Principal of Bishop’s University.

“My father would have been very pleased to have his name given to this wonderful initiative. He wrote beautifully in both English and French and he loved his interactions with students,” Goldbloom noted. “From his first career as a pediatrician and throughout his public life, my Dad always sought to broaden understanding, bridge differences and help to make a better world. This essay competition is a thoughtful way of inviting young people to share that goal.”


MNA Birnbaum gets key post with Minister of Education

David Birnbaum, the Liberal  MNA for D’Arcy McGee, will be playing a key role with Quebec's new Minister of Education and Higher Education.

Premier Philippe Couillard has announced that Birnbaum will serve as a Parliamentary Assistant to Pierre Moreau as he navigates his way through the many challenges in this province related to primary, secondary and higher education.

"I am honored by the confidence that both the Premier and the Minister have expressed in assigning me these new and important responsibilities," Birnbaum said. "I hope that my years of experience in public education will help the Minister and our government successfully steer a course toward enhanced student welfare and success across Quebec.

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David Birnbaum

In speaking to the nomination, Minister Moreau noted: "David's years of experience in advocating on behalf of English education will surely be an asset as we strive to enhance and support student success across Quebec. I look forward to involving David in working towards students’ success."

Of course the first hot potato will be upcoming hearings related to Bill 86, which if adopted will abolish future school board elections as they stand today. Elected school commissioners, just over a year into their mandate, could conceivably lose their jobs within 14 days of the passage of such a law.

Given the fact that I work for the English Montreal School Board, which has already strongly opposed  the proposed law and will present a brief on February 16,I will say no more on this subject.

Good luck to David!

 


Lawrence Bergman gets fitting honour a year after his retirement

More than a year after his retirement from political life, Quebec’s de facto Minister of Jewish Affairs got the true honour he deserved. Former Liberal MNA for D’Arcy McGee Lawrence Bergman was feted on May 11 at the Adath Israel Congregation in Hampstead, the synagogue which he served as president of for four years prior to entering politics. This was also the site for most of his nomination meetings.

It was a packed house, with political movers and shakers and community leadership. There was valet parking and a strong police and public security presence.  There were trays of food to choose from and servers circulating with delicious hor d’oeuvres. As I told event co-chairman Samuel Gewurz when I entered, it looked like he was hosting another bar mitzvah for Lawrence.

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Anthony Housefather, Jean Charest and Mitchell Brownstein

The guest of honour, with the love of his life Vivian by his side, posed for countless pictures and welcomed his many former colleagues. And they were there in impressive numbers: former Premier Jean Charest, former Finance Minister Raymond Bachand, former Family Minister Yolande James, former MNAs Yvan Marcoux, Henri Francois Gautrin, Russell Copeman and present-day ministers and MNAs Jacques Chagnon, Nicole Menard, Christine St. Pierre, Pierre Arcand, Kathleen Weil, David Birnbaum.

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Raymond Bachand

Bachand credited Bergman for educating him on the many facets of the Jewish community. “We travelled together and led a most important delegation to Israel,” he said. “We went to Yad Vashem – god bless their souls, god bless Israel.”

One of Bergman’s two sons, Stuart, spoke of what a devoted father Lawrence was to he and his brother Mark.

Community leader Steven Cummings, also a co-chair of the event, introduced Charest and reminded everyone in the room what a crucial role he played in the 1995 Quebec referendum. “We suffered from a lack of leadership,” he said. “Then Jean Charest made that electrifying speech. That gave us the resolve to fight until the last moment.”

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Bergman, his parther Vivian and a well wisher.

Charest was eventually recruited to lead the Quebec Liberal Party in 1998. While the party won a majority of votes in that year’s election, the PQ gained more seats. Charest went about rebuilding the Liberals in the province in 2003 won the first of three consecutive elections.

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Pierre Arcand, Sidney and Merle Margles.

Have we seen the last of Jean Charest in politics? He may be comfortable in the private sector these days, but he sounded very much like someone who still has the itch to campaign. If Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not win another mandate to govern next October, do not be surprised to see Charest consider a bid to lead the Conservative Party he left 17 years ago to take over the Quebec Liberals.

Charest credited Bergman for standing up to separatist Yves Michaud, who condemned the voters of D’Arcy McGee for voting so strongly against sovereignty. Charest presented a motion to the National Assembly condemning references to "an ethnic vote against the sovereignty of the people of Quebec" and speaking of B'nai Brith Canada as "an extremist group against Quebecers and against sovereignty", as expressed by Yves Michaud at the Quebec Estates-General. The Premier   Lucien Bouchard condemned the remarks in the name of his party and the government. The motion was adopted unanimously by the National Assembly. When Bouchard left politics, he alluded to Michaud’s intolerance as one of the aspects which soured his opinion of politics.

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Bergman speaks.

Charest named Bergman Minister of Revenue in 2003. “Lawrence kept meeting people and telling them he was their partner,” he recalled. “He said ‘I have 50 percent of your business and   want your money now.’ Lawrence Bergman had the respect of all of his colleagues. No project was important to him than the Jewish General Hospital. All of us who have experience with the Jewish General know this is the best hospital in Quebec.”

Bergman was the last to speak and he was eloquent as usual. “This evening is overwhelming me with emotion,” he said. “I am watered over with so many great memories.  I have been blessed in my life to have many families. My first great family was my constituents. We laughed together, we cried together, but we believed in each other.”

Bergman spoke of his close friendship with Charest. That he had a personal problem and needed to speak to a friend. “That friend was Jean Charest,” he said, noting how the premier was in France for the wedding of his daughter yet called him immediately and did so again a few days later to check up on him.”

Bergman ran in six election campaigns and worked on one referendum. He was a fabulous MNA.  Côte Saint-Luc honoured him last summer when we named one of the chalets at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park. It was the least we could do to show our gratitude to the man who played a key role in saving our Emergency Medical Services after we demerged from the City of Montreal.


D`Arcy McGee Liberal Association plans delegate selection and Town Hall meeting Sunday

On Sunday May 3  (11 :30 a.m.) the D’Arcy-McGee Liberal Association,  chaired by its President Orna Hilberger, will be hosting a Delegate Election and Town Hall open to all members of the   riding.

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David Birnbaum

The event will kick off in room C of the Côte Saint-Luc Aquatic and Community Centre with the election of delegates for the upcoming PLQ Members Convention on June 13 and 14  at the Palais de Congres. Once delegates have been selected to represent the riding, the town hall will begin where members will be able to discuss such topics as the economic revitalization of Montreal as well as health care. After these topics have been discussed, the closing of the town hall will be concluded with an open microphone portion ,as well as a chance to engage your concerns with MNA David Birnbaum. The event is set to end at 1:30 p.m. just in time for VE Day at Veterans Park.  

David Birnbaum has worked very hard since succeeding Lawrence Bergman as our MNA last year.

For any further questions please contact 514-488-7028.

Download Town Hall Flyer


Where do we stand on the current pension plan crisis?

Many of people have asked me what the city of Côte Saint-Luc's official position is on Bill 3, the Quebec government's Municipal Pension Plan legislation. The recent mob scene of protests at Montreal City Hall show that the anger of some of the unions has gotten out of control. Thus far, in our community, staff have not reacted in such a manner.

We are part of the Association of Suburban Municipalities. Here is their official position on Projet de loi 3 and the need to deal with one of the key issues that has contributed to the current pension crisis, this being the fact that municipal employee salaries are 18 percent greater  than those paid to provincial public sector employees and 38 percent more when we talk about total remuneration (salaries + fringe benefits).

Please see the press release below.

Download Press Release + Fact Sheet - Final


Lawrence Bergman served his constituents with style; Welcome David Birnbaum

Soon after Quebec Premier Pauline Marois called an election for April 7, the province’s de facto Minister of Jewish Affairs announced that he was retiring. Lawrence Bergman, the Member of the National Assembly for D’Arcy McGee, surprised many by stepping aside. His successor is David Birnbaum, the executive director of the Quebec English School Boards Association and a former executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec Region.

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Lawrence Bergman

 

It was only last fall that Bergman was formally nominated for the next election at a gala affair at the Adath Israel Congregation in Hampstead, where he served as president prior to becoming the local MNA in 1994.There was no indication that Bergman would leave politics. Then again, we expected a December election at the time which never came to be.

Over the last two weeks new Liberal Party leader Philippe Couillard has already seen a number of his elder statesmen resign before the election call. It started last summer when former Finance Minister Raymond Bachand retired in Outremont and continued last week with news that three other veterans would not run. Bergman supported Bachand in the party leadership race, not Couillard, leaving some to believe that may have played a role in his departure. He is 73 years old, so if the Liberals or PQ won a majority government he would have seen himself stay in office until the age of 77.

Bergman’s career highlight was being named Minister of Revenue during then Premier Jean Charest’s government in 2003. He did not retain his cabinet seat in 2007 and 2008 victories, but did grab the prestigious post of chairman of the government caucus. This gave him invaluable daily access to members of cabinet. When Bachand announced millions of dollars worth of funding for the Jewish General Hospital, he credited Bergman with aggressively pursuing him at every turn.

Early in his parliamentary career Bergman had the National Assembly recognize Yom Hashoah, something that became a regular occurrence. He constantly spoke out against acts of anti-Semitism and stood up for municipalities and organizations in his predominantly Jewish constituency. There was rarely a community event he missed, always the ultimate politician shaking hands and remembering everyone’s name.

In Côte Saint-Luc we will always be grateful for his successful efforts in saving our Emergency Medical Services (EMS) after our city demerged from Montreal. When I asked for his support for our CSL Cats Committee he not only attended our annual fundraising concert, but made a generous contribution to our cause.

Bergman was present at every community event we held. In recent years he has been accompanied his lady friend, Vivian. Early on his mandate, Bergman`s wife Monica died of cancer. He was alone for a long time until he connected with Vivian who was by his side for every political event. Now, as he told a press conference, he will have more time for her, his two sons and their spouses and his grandchildren.

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David Birnbaum

 

I have know Birnbaum for over 30 years. We met when I was covering meetings of the former Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal for The Suburban. At the time he served as their information officer. We maintained contact during our various incarnations. He served as the executive director of Alliance Quebec and then went to work for a private public relations firm.  I was with the Canadian Jewish Congress in 1999, having spent 11 years there. The head office was moving to Ottawa and I wanted to stay here so I did some networking. Birnbaum was among the people I called. He connected me with the English Montreal School Board and set the wheels in motion for the job I have held since that time, as communications and marketing specialist. Ironically, a few months later, Canadian Jewish Congress let me know they needed a new executive director for Quebec. I, in turn, recommended Birnbaum. He got the job, but eventually took the  top post at the Quebec English Montreal School Boards Association where he was a strong voice for the anglophone community. At this precarious time in our history, he is the right man to represent at the provincial level.

See Glenn J. Nashen's blog for a very fitting tribute.

 


Lawrence Bergman shows fire in the belly as he prepares for election

With the municipal elections in Quebec just a few weeks, can we really stomach a provincial vote on December 9? Well it is certainly looking like Premier Pauline Marois will pull the trigger on one for that date, with the hope that she has winning conditions on her side.

For the voters in the riding of D’Arcy McGee, which emcompasses Côte Saint-Luc, Hampstead and part of NDG, it is comforting to know that long-time MNA Lawrence Bergman will be back as a candidate whenever Marois sends us back to the polls. There was cautious optimism at his nomination meeting at the Adath Israel Congregation on October 16 that the Liberals might be returned to power. Bergman sounded confident and so did two of his colleagues – MNAs and former cabinet ministers Pierre Arcand and Jean-Marc Fournier. John Parisella, the architect behind past provincial Liberal success stories, was a keynote speaker. He focused his talk on key Liberal values.

It is clear that with their divisive Charter of Values, the PQ wants to create a rift in the province. They have used this clearly xenophobic tactic to draw attention away from their poor economic performance, with an attempt to woo voters who agree that a ban on religious symbols is a good idea.  The proposed charter would ban public servants from wearing kippahs, hijabs, or larger-than-average crosses.

I joined members of the Côte Saint-Luc city council Glenn J.  Nashen, Sam Goldbloom, Ruth Kovac, Mitchell Brownstein, Dida Berku, Steven Erdelyi and Allan J. Levine at the event.

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Councillors Goldbloom, myself, Berku, Nashen and Levine with Bergman.

Mayor Anthony Housefather was away on business, but he did send this message of support: “I am so sorry that work obligations have not allowed me to be at your nomination meeting tonight, but I want to express my strong support for your candidacy and my profound appreciation for your work as an MNA.  We have worked together since I was first elected a councillor and you were first elected an MNA 19 years ago.  Throughout that entire period you have been a friend and a mentor and someone who has taught me so much about what politics should truly be about which is doing good things for the people you represent and society as a whole.  As mayor of Côte Saint-Luc I can only say that you have been there at every step of the way to support our municipality and its 34,000 residents.  Whether it was securing funding for the construction of our fabulous new Aquatic and Community Centre, assisting us in getting legislation enacted to protect our exemplary EMS first responder service, helping us work on safety in our rail yards or lobbying for the Cavendish extension,  you have always been there for us.  In the last year since the PQ was elected you have been at the forefront assisting us in opposing the mean spirited Bill 14 and the horrendous Charter of Quebec Values, both of which attacked our rights and freedoms.  I am very proud to call you my MNA and D’Arcy McGee is extremely lucky to have you represent us in the National Assembly. I wish you the best of success and will be there every step of the way to support you and the Liberal Party in the next Quebec election.”

Hampstead Councillors Bonnie Feigenbaum (candidate for mayor), Michael Goldwax and Leon Elfassy were on hand. So was Russell Copeman, a former Liberal MNA and now a candidate for borough mayor in NDG-Côte des Neiges and the man who currently holds that title, Darlington District Councillor Lionel Perez. District 2 resident Martin Bogante, who presided over the local riding association for 18 years, was clearly a relaxed observer. New Police Station 9 Commander Marc Cournoyer made an appearance as did Senator Leo Kolber. Mark Bergman, with wife Sara and adorable seven year old daughter Mollie, was on hand. The MNA’s son, best known as the brand director and drive home show host on Virgin Radio, raced home from the end of shift to salute his dad.

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Mark Bergman, wife Sara and daughter Mollie.

Bergman had very warm words for the woman in his life, Viviane Konigsberg. Bergman’s wife Monica passed away from cancer over a decade ago. He remained single for many years. Viviane is with him at all public events. He called her “my deep love of my life...my companion.”

Fournier ripped into the PQ’s record. “They were supposed to have a zero deficit and instead it is a $2 billion deficit,” he said. “Nobody is happy that the economy is headed in the wrong direction. If they call us for an election, we are going to have to define the kind of society we want. Being united is the only way our society will be better.”

On the eve of his 73rd birthday, Bergman showed that he still has plenty of fire in his belly. The de facto “Minister of Jewish Affairs” stated to much applause, “for the sake of all of Quebec we need a change in government.” He went on to accuse the PQ of wanting to institute state sponsored discrimination.

Added Bergman: “How many times have I said that all Quebecers, those born here and those who decided to come to our shores, are equal no matter what the colour of our skin, their origin and the society that they come from? We are all equals as Quebecers and Canadians. Unfortunately the present government wants to break with that premise.”

 Bravo Mr. Bergman!

 

 

 

 

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